It seemed that the sky was the limit for ace pilot Shin Kazama. His career with a wealthy commercial airliner was on the horizon, and he was ready to settle down to a comfortable life with his true love. Little did he know that he would soon be tricked into joining a motley crew of mercenary fighter pilots in the deadly skies of Area 88. Now the only way to get home is to complete the three year term or pay $1.5 million to break the contract.
The broadcast series Area 88
(2004) is the second adaptation of Kaoru Shintani's manga about the adventures of an airborne mercenary corps; a three-part OVA appeared in 1985. Photojournalist Makoto Shinjou comes to the center of the civil war ravaging the country of Aslan, to investigate fighter pilot Shin Kazama. Area 88 is a tough assignment: the pilots must serve three years or earn $1.5 million in bonuses for destroying enemy targets--minus the cost of fuel, housing, meals, etc. Director Isamu Imakake provides plenty of Top Gun
-style action: high speed climbs, vertiginous dives, hairpin turns, and mid-air explosions. But Kazama is so taciturn and stoic, he's not terribly interesting; Shinjou's endless prying annoys the other members of the crew. The extras include specs of the planes, character biographies and an interview with Imakake and screenwriter Hiroshi Ohnogi. (Rated TV PG, suitable for ages 12 and older: violence, tobacco use, brief nudity) --Charles Solomon